Renowned trauma surgeon, Professor Elias Degiannis, has been recognised for his extraordinary contribution in the fields of trauma medicine and critical care, and for his long and distinguished service to the people of South Africa, by being awarded the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Medal by Netcare.
Prof Degiannis, whose career in medicine spanned more than 40 years, was honoured at a function held at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg where he has worked since 1996. He has also served the University of the Witwatersrand’s Department of Surgery and Leratong Hospital. The Netcare Group’s chief executive officer, Dr Richard Friedland, Netcare South West regional director, Sandile Mbele, and a host of other luminaries from the medical, trauma and critical care sectors attended the event.
“Professor Degiannis has had a long and most distinguished career, which commenced as a doctor with the Greek Navy back in 1975. He made a most outstanding contribution not only to the development of South African critical care medicine, but also through his treatment of thousands of trauma patients, many of whose lives he saved,” said Dr Friedland at the event.
“We also honour Professor Degiannis’ considerable contribution to the Netcare Milpark Hospital Level 1 trauma centre, which is today acknowledged as one of the country’s finest, as well as his academic and teaching contribution within the critical care sector in South Africa, which has earned him local and international recognition,” added Dr Friedland.
Pic: Professor Elias Degiannis (centre) with his Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award, which was awarded to him for his extraordinary contribution in the fields of trauma medicine and critical care. Pictured with Professor Degiannis at the award ceremony held at Netcare Milpark Hospital recently was Marc van Heerden, the hospital’s general manager.
“His achievements within, and dedication to, the medical profession In South Africa deserve every recognition, and he is without doubt a worthy and outstanding recipient of the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award.”
Founded in 2011, the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award, an initiative of Netcare in association with the Christiaan Barnard Foundation, pays tribute to doctors who practice at healthcare facilities within the Netcare Group and who have demonstrated leadership in their specific field whilst contributing to the advancement of the medical profession. Professor Degiannis is the 35th medical professional to have been bestowed this honour.
According to Dr Anchen Laubscher, medical director of the Netcare Group, Professor Degiannis, who immigrated from Greece to South Africa 28 years ago and will soon be retiring in his country of birth, has over his long career been particularly prolific in the areas of trauma unit organisation, trauma surgery education and critical care research.
“One of his most important contributions to South African medicine has undoubtedly been in the development of the trauma and critical care systems within both private and public sectors,” noted Dr Laubscher.
“He certainly left an indelible mark on Netcare Milpark Hospital’s critical care system, assisting the trauma centre to achieve accreditation to Level 1 by the Trauma Society of South Africa [TSSA], the first facility of its kind to be so acknowledged, and was also a driving force behind the country’s first private burns unit at the facility.”
Dr Laubscher noted that Professor Degiannis’s research and academic contributions have served to strengthen critical care medicine not only in South Africa but also globally. He taught established international trauma courses in 14 developed countries worldwide, served on numerous trauma and critical care bodies, and contributed many academic papers aimed at strengthening trauma care around the world.
“I am deeply honoured and humbled to be the recipient of the prestigious Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award,” said Professor Degiannis at the event. “It has been an immense privilege and pleasure to be able to contribute to the critical care sector in South Africa and to have been a part of the dedicated trauma teams at Netcare Milpark Hospital over the last two decades.
“I take with me many meaningful and fond memories of my time in South Africa and would like to thank all of those individuals who supported and assisted me in my work over the years,” he added.
Professor Degiannis immigrated to South Africa in 1991 and was first employed as a senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and senior consultant surgeon at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg. He became the head of a general surgical unit at the hospital in 1993, where he developed special interests in trauma surgery and oesophageal cancer.
He became an associate professor in 2001 and ad hominem professor of surgery of the University of the Witwatersrand in 2006. Professor Degiannis was the head of the Trauma Directorate at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Professor Emeritus at the Department of Surgery, University of the Witwatersrand, until the end of 2015.
Prof Degiannis has been awarded honorary memberships/fellowships from the Hellenic Trauma Society, the Brazilian College of Surgeons, the Association of Surgeons of Spain, the German Surgical Society, the Finnish Trauma Society, as well as the Silver and the Gold Cross of Honour of the German Armed Forces.
He was an overseas assessor for academic promotion to the level of associate professorship and chair of surgery in several European medical schools. He was also a member of the International Relations Committee of the American College of Surgeons (Educational Sub-committee and International Relations Sub-committee). He has been a visiting professor to several overseas academic Institutions.
The general manager of Netcare Milpark Hospital, Marc van Heerden, said that Professor Degiannis, who in his spare time enjoys classical music, was one of the most highly esteemed academic and trauma surgeons to have ever served the facility’s trauma centre.
“He greatly contributed to the development of the strong critical care system that exists at our hospital today. His presence at Netcare Milpark Hospital, and indeed within the broader South African critical care sector, will be sorely missed. It was therefore with a heavy heart that we at Netcare Milpark Hospital bid him farewell. However, we wish Professor Degiannis everything of the best in his well-deserved retirement,” he concluded.
Note to editors
Professor Elias Degiannis
MD, PhD, FRCS [Glasg], FCS [SA], FACS, Trauma Surgery sub-specialty
Elias Degiannis was born on October 28, 1950, in Larisa, Greece. He graduated as a medical practitioner from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 1974. He moved to the United Kingdom (UK) in 1977 after serving for three years in the Hellenic War Navy. After completing his training in general surgery in the UK in 1984, he returned to Greece in 1988 and joined the National Health Service at the Greek Anticancer Institute in Athens.
Prof Degiannis immigrated to South Africa in 1991, and was employed as a senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and a senior consultant surgeon at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg. He became the head of a general surgical unit at the hospital in 1993. He joined the trauma team at Netcare Milpark Hospital in 1996.
He became an associate professor in 2001 and ad hominem professor of surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2006. In 2003, Prof Degiannis took over as head of trauma at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and commenced with the establishment of a dedicated trauma unit, which deals with neck, cardiothoracic, abdominal and vascular trauma and is also responsible for all polytrauma patients.
He was head of the Trauma Directorate at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Academic Head of the Division of Trauma, Department of Surgery, University of the Witwatersrand until the end of 2015. He is a Professor Emeritus employed at the Milpark Academic Trauma Centre, the University of the Witwatersrand’s Department of Surgery, and at the Leratong Hospital, Johannesburg.
Prof Degiannis was an examiner at the General Surgery and Certificate in Trauma Surgery examinations of the College of Medicine of South Africa as well as the Masters in Medicine (MMed) final of several South African medical schools.
He developed international ‘hands-on’ fellowships for the German Armed Forces, the Association of Surgeons in Spain, the University of Helsinki Hospitals, the College of Surgeons of West Africa, the Hellenic Trauma Society (Niarchos Foundation) and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard.
Prof Degiannis taught established international trauma courses in 14 developed countries worldwide and was a member of the editorial boards of many international journals, editor of several books and author to a large number of international book chapters and original papers, mainly in penetrating trauma.
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